09/11/2012 05:00 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

Ivanplats Ltd. starts initial public offering process in rocky market

VANCOUVER - Mining venture Ivanplats Ltd., controlled by billionaire Ivanhoe Mines founder Robert Friedland, has started the initial public offering process, one of the few companies risking such a move in a rocky market.

The Vancouver-based private company has filed a preliminary prospectus to the Ontario Securities Commission to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a source familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Earlier reports have speculated the offering could be worth $1 billion, but there were no figures in the latest filing.

If the IPO is successful, it could be the biggest in Canada since Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. (TSX:ATH), raised $1.35-billion in its initial public offering in 2010.

The IPO market has largely been sluggish as companies have feared being undervalued or ignored as stock markets continue to be roiled by investor jitters over the state of the global economy. In such a climate, investors are less likely to take a risk on helping to finance a new public company.

In 2010, Toronto-based Porter Airlines announced they would make an IPO, but then reversed course, while SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (TSX:SNC) cancelled a public offering of its subsidiary TransAxio Highway Concession Inc. due to "adverse market conditions.''

TransAxio's public offering was expected to raise between $700 million to $900 million

Ivanplats has mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa. It is focused on the exploration and development of major copper, platinum, gold, nickel and zinc deposits.

Friedland stepped away from Ivanhoe Mines, now called Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. (TSX:TRQ), earlier this year as part of a deal with Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO), which holds a 51 per cent stake in the company, that also included a $3.3-billion financing package.

Friedland made a name for himself in the international mining community when he sold the still undeveloped Voisey's Bay nickel deposit in Labrador to Inco for more than $4 billion. Inco was later acquired by Brazilian mining giant Vale.

He also owns a large stake in Ivanhoe Energy Inc. (TSX:IE), an international heavy oil exploration and development company.